We’re all the heroes of our own stories, but the heroes we admire in literature and on the screen find themselves undergoing spiritual and emotional transformations more often than they find themselves using the bathroom. If all of us are heroes, each going on a continuous, limitless, and recursive journey throughout the stages of our lives, then where are you in your journey? How does it relate to your current struggles? What lessons are here for you to learn?
Every journey has to start somewhere, so perhaps yours might start with a beginning.
This is the way it’s always been. Or at least it feels that way. Life is routine, and yours was set in stone a long time ago. You’ve worked hard, checked the boxes, weathered your storms, and now you’ve settled into the peaceful existence you thought you earned. You’re Cinderella scrubbing her stepsister’s linens after the untimely death of her father. Your life is stable, but it’s far from perfect.
When you try to be creative, you might find yourself taking comfort in cliche or falling upon old habits.
Sharing your life experiences with others is challenging because the monotony has left you with little to be excited about. From the comfort of your routine, you might find it hard to realize how others perceive you. When you dream about your future, you struggle to imagine any version of your life other than the one you’re currently living. Yours is a common existence, but not an easy one.
You probably feel proud, but overwhelmed. You’ve struggled throughout your life, and finding any sense of routine, peace, and conformity is refreshing, but life is still challenging. You’re able to mostly brush aside or push down any nagging thoughts or complaints you might have with this attitude of pride. But no matter how good you get at suppressing doubt, you find yourself making the same mistakes and coming to the same crossroads over and over again. But the journey you’re going on isn’t one with a fixed beginning and end, it’s one that you’ll be on for the rest of your life, revisiting certain stops as necessary. It is your doubt that could be your teacher, and it is your doubt that will guide you to your next step.
To escape the doldrums of your homely routine, you’ll need to follow your instincts. You will be thoughtful enough to notice the symptoms and behaviours that cast shadows upon your comfortable life. You will be brave enough to admit to their presence and discover the extent to which they have wounded you. You will be kind enough to yourself to see your world for how it is. It took a few years, but Cinderella inevitably realized that she didn’t want to stay in her stepmother’s home for the rest of her life.
With where you are now, a hero in the ordinary world living their life in a peaceful emptiness, you might feel fatigued, overwhelmed, or afraid of the journey ahead. It can be helpful if you are navigating this step in your journey to keep a daily journal and see how it feels to read about your life on paper. You might feel frustrated because you feel that you shouldn’t have to work on this step, but each step along our journey has an important lesson to teach us, and an indelible mark to leave on us. Think of going along your path of growth like you are your own canvas to paint upon, and each lesson you learn along the way is a new color leaving its hallmark on you. Helming your way through the way it’s always been might leave you feeling blue, and hearing the whisper in the next step might make you feel yellow, but the blue would still be in place on the canvas, blending with the yellow to make a beautiful shade of green.
To awaken your sense of awareness, you can also reach out within your communities by performing acts of community service or becoming involved in a local group that shares your passions.
If we are stuck in our routines, and trapped within a cycle of self-involvement, the greatest panacea to our illness is becoming the empathetic audience of another person’s voice. If we cannot see through the haze of the way it’s always been through our own eyes, then perhaps we need to borrow the eyes of another. It’s for this same reason that seeking out a therapy session can often be the most productive actionable step available to you.
If you find yourself relating or struggling with the feelings common to this stage, you can ask your therapist to focus on mindfulness, empathetic/active listening, or narrative therapy. Mindfulness is all about existing in the present moment, noticing your environment, and accepting the world around you, which is absolutely invaluable in every step of your journey, but especially when you’re attempting to pierce the veil of your stable and ordinary routine.
Empathetic listening is an act of radical self-awareness.
It is where you pay attention to another person intently with compassion, emotional identification and insight. Basically, it involves hearing another’s words, and imagining what the world might look like through their eyes. Finally, narrative therapy is a method of therapeutic treatment that involves removing the patient (potentially you) from the emotional first person world we spend our lives in, and analyzing the third person narrative we create in our minds.
There are plenty of mindfulness activities that can help you when you feel disoriented and uncomfortable. Here are some ideas to get your started:
Take a mindful walk.
Notice the colors, the animals, and the textures that you see, the different smells that waft under your nose, the sound of your feet on the pavement, the rustle of the leaves and the birds chirping, and the feel of a tree, grass, or water on your skin.
Swimming can reset your nervous system and relax your body. There is also little room for distraction when you’re in a pool or the ocean, making it easier to melt into the present moment.
Wash your hands.
This may seem insignificant, but it can be turned into quite the mindful activity if you don’t have time for a walk or a swim or aren’t feeling particularly energetic. Notice the warm water running through your hands. Smell the soap and feel its texture on your skin. Listen to the sound of the water running and your hands rubbing together.
The journey is long.
So long that you’ll be travelling along its path for the rest of your life, maybe more than once. The pace can be grueling, because we don’t choose when we need to grow, only if. The rewards are countless, endless, ceaseless, and priceless.
If you happen to be searching for a therapist to offer guidance in this journey to fulfillment, we have an excellent team of therapists, analysts and specialists in narrative therapy who would love to help you. Other mental health services Integrative Counsel provides are art therapy, depression and anxiety treatment, improving codependency and boundaries, grief and life transition, accessing your body informed wisdom, and increasing mindfulness and awareness.
Sunny Ebsary is a writer and singer-songwriter from Tampa, FL. When he’s not sing-songwriting or just regular writing, he’s probably drinking water with a lot of ice, having a staring contest with his cat, or giving people great ideas. You can listen to Sunny’s music here.